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Zhang Jinga



By Angela D’Souza

The internet presence of Zhang Jingna exemplifies art for the masses. Having reached her audience under an alias of “zemotion” on the on- line arts network, Deviant Art, as well as through other networking sites, Jingna’s work is available thanks to a magnitude of editorial spreads and campaigns exceeding that of a creative her age with such brevity of practice.

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The photographer, born in Beijing and raised in Singapore, traverses borders as her images are viewed by a global demographic of varying nationalities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and life experiences. At twenty-two, her career is just shy of four years, yet her work turns heads rendering awe and inducing reflection. In the short time since she first picked up a camera, Jingna has amassed a portfolio including such international names as MontBlanc, Chanel, Mercedes-Benz, Lancôme, Sony, Canon and Random House Publishing. From a childhood career in rifle sports to a pursuit of fashion design in college, Jingna has rocketed into the fashion world, continent non-specific (she works in Europe, North America and Asia). It was during her studies in fashion design that Jingna changed places, from her designs posed for the camera to her eye partnering with such a tool.

While some philosophers would argue that photography cannot be an art because essentially, the act of photographing is a mechanical process in which the camera captures the subject, Jingna solidly defends the art status of photography with the standard rebuttal that “painters are still artists despite the brush being the tool that they use, just as the camera.” At a time when photographers come a dime a dozen, from self-taught to degree-holding, film-developing to digital-editing, Jingna differentiates that “a simple photograph is easy to achieve, but artistic photography necessitates human involvement and individual expressions from the creator.” Critics have argued among themselves for centuries on how legitimate the idea of what influence the artist’s life bears on his or her work. Is a piece of art a reflection of the creator’s life? Jingna, traveling steadily since the age of fourteen, asserts that yes, her views and perspectives have been shaped through her unique circumstances, in particular from her immersion into the cities and cultures outside of her childhood homes.

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For Jingna, expression is paramount to the action of the artist. She shares, “Artists themselves are those that have a perspective they opted to share with the world, with the tools or mediums they find themselves best and most comfortable with expressing in.” With beauty being Jingna’s aimed subject, her admitted goals are to document, to transform and to enhance, but these “are all parts of a whole.” Her work has been called “pre-Raphaelite,” in the tradition of the nineteenth-century art movement which Jingna encountered and was drawn to in her art history classes while still a fashion student. Like the religious-themed paintings of the pre-Raphaelite society, Jingna’s images do seem to capture both the frailty and divinity of the human form.

However, unlike past pre-Raphaelites, Jingna’s process is the digital one, and she utilizes the programs Lightroom and Photoshop to polish the final piece, or “her ideal vision.” As filmmakers regularly have an agenda to entertain, to inform, to tell a story, so too do Jingna’s projects reflect a narrative, the narrative of the subject told through Jingna’s expression. Humble, Jingna shares, “I’ve been lucky that my clients have chosen me for my visual style that is suitable for them.” yet, it is her point of view and experiences that inevitably frame the photograph, giving magazine-readers and billboard-viewers a snapshot of a story.

Jingna’s CV includes Harper’s Bazaar Singapore and Elle Singapore, among a dozen other notable fashion, photography and art publications. She was first commissioned for Singaporean jewelry designer, Mandy Wu, which serendipitously cascaded into a word-of-mouth, domino effect that keeps Jingna working and stimulated to date. When asked in what capacity she hopes to mature as an artist, Jingna states, “…there’s always room to grow as an artist/photographer regardless of who [you] are, how established or successful. Constantly evolving, learning and pushing myself forward is the key.” To aspiring photographers, Jingna offers, “Work hard, stay true to yourself and keep to your passion and dreams.”

Curiously, her family’s history in rifle sports plays as equally imperative a hand to her growth as a photographer as did her higher education. The camera has been compared to a gun by some anthropologists; depending on the context, its lens may be viewed as threatening, like the barrel of a firearm, for what the potential photograph may make evident and who that image might implicate. When asked if such an invasive machine has drawn any comparisons for Jingna by way of her background in rifle sporting events, she answered that “the accuracy when shooting rifles has a relation with the precision of timing in when to snap the perfect photo. I think that’s something inseparable.” Only the finished product may indicate any threat felt by the subject, and Jingna’s audience will be the judge.

You can find her work at www.zhangjingna.com. 

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